The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-reading Monster Hercules Barefoot, His Wonderful Love and his Terrible Hatred by Carl-Johan Vallgren - review by Nick Parker

Nick Parker

A Hideous Beast

The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-reading Monster Hercules Barefoot, His Wonderful Love and his Terrible Hatred

By

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It’s not often these days that I make the mistake of judging a book by its cover, but I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a book with an overripe title. As far as I’m concerned, Swift should never have wavered from Travels into several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, first a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships. Consequently, my heart raced when I saw the title of this book. That it had also won the August prize – ‘The Swedish equivalent of the Booker’ – when it was first published in Vallgren’s native Sweden only made me more eager to dive in.

One stormy night in 1813, two babies are born to two prostitutes. One is a healthy girl, the other, a boy, is the ‘quintessence of human deformity’; he has protuberances on his head ‘reminiscent of fossilized snails’, a cleft palate, withered arms, a tongue like a snake, hair like a

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